Alum reconnect in large numbers at annual gathering
Former students and staff members reconnected in person and online—and in large numbers—at Avondale’s Homecoming this past weekend (August 25-26).
With the second-highest number of registrations since 2012, alum filled some honour year reunion venues, added their voices to inspiring congregational singing and gave generously to student mission.
The annual event began with a welcome dinner at 7@Avondale. Alum finished their meal watching Sandra Entermann’s Sabbath Singalong on the screens in the refurbished cafeteria. And wherever else they and others found themselves. The Friday evening mainstay’s Homecoming special, which featured Avondale vocal ensemble The Promise, has 37,000 views on Facebook and 12,000 on YouTube.
Worship service supports mission
In-person experiences returned on Saturday. Former president Dr John Cox taught a thoughtful Sabbath school lesson while Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Kerri-Lee Krause preached the worship service sermon. She reminded those listening to insert more “kairos time” in their lives and illustrated the tenacity and unwavering faith of Seventh-day Adventist pioneer—and Avondale founder—Ellen White. Kerri-Lee’s message centred on a recurring phrase from the letters of White, who wrote about unbelief, doubt and impossibilities meeting us at every step, “and still we advance” (13LtMs, Lt 125a, 1898).
The offering raised more than $6500 for Mission Build Fiji, which will help purchase materials students need to renovate Nadi Central Adventist Church on their trip to the Pacific island nation in November.
The heart of Homecoming: the honour year reunions. All were in person, although three welcomed alumni online. One had an alumnus host on Zoom from Queensland.
The reopening of the Alumni Heritage Walk, refurbished for the first since 1997, preceded the reunions. Its black granite pavers—many of them new—now form a decorative break across the walk between concrete slabs.
Alumni award recipients
Avondale honours an Alumna, Alumnus and Young Alumnus of the Year at Homecoming. It revealed the names of these award recipients online ahead of the worship service.
Alumna of the Year Melanie Windus (BNurs, 1993) has dedicated her working and serving life to the transformation of lives through healthcare. A cancer survivor, her thoughtfulness, patience and respect served her well over more 30 years at Sydney Adventist Hospital. But her commitment to Open Heart International probably defines her career. As coordinator, Melanie has led 24 trips to Fiji and two to Vanuatu where teams of professionals offer lifesaving cardiac surgical services.
Alumnus of the Year Dr Barry Oliver (BA Theol, 1973) has committed his working life to the Adventist Church in the South Pacific, particularly as a scholar and servant leader. He experienced the richness and vitality of the church over an almost 20-year tenure as its general secretary and president. His legacy? Growing the church in the Pacific. Presiding over the development of Avondale towards university status and of the San as the largest private hospital in New South Wales. And advocating for ordination without regard to gender. He continues to research and write, particularly as regional editor for the new Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists.
Young Alumnus of the Year Sophia Husband (BA/BTch, 2017) “goes the extra mile” for her students, and not just at school, says Paul Fua, principal at Tweed Valley Adventist College where Sophia is soon to become Head of English. A role as young adult ministries leader is encouraging students to attend the local Adventist church. Sophia is as passionate about serving others as about building community, volunteering this year as a teacher in Nepal.
Class citation recipients
Like the awards, class citations also recognise dedication to transforming lives, engagement with learning and discovery, and commitment to service. Receiving these in their honour year reunions were:
- Teacher Mabel Hale (Theological Normal, 1953) for her lifetime commitment to early childhood education and pastoral care;
- Minister Pr Roger Nixon (DipTheolPrimTch, 1963) for his quiet commitment to a loving and faithful service that has ministered to young and old;
- Minister Pr David Robertson (BA(Theol), 1973) for enriching relationships and supporting those damaged by relationships inside and outside the Adventist Church;
- Minister and health educator Dr Paul Rankin (BA(Theol), 1983) for lifting lives through a passion for ministry that connects church to community;
- Teacher Denis Matthews (BEd, 1993) for a career dedicated to a ministry of teaching that puts people first;
- Teacher Heidi Mazz (BEd(Hons), 2003), whose practice of faith through teaching and educational leadership has blessed school communities, and;
- Musician and music educator Benjamin Milis (BA/BTch, 2013), for faithfully sharing his gift with children and church.
Sing Praise appeals
Milis did this on Saturday evening as artistic director of Sing Praise, a Gaither Homecoming-style concert that is part of Sing Series, which he founded. It featured a 100-voice choir and guest vocalists and musicians leading an audience through a set list of songs—“old hymns that connected us to deep biblical truths and the long history of faith and new songs that provided a fresh picture of the gospel.” Simple arrangements of songs allowing audience members to hear themselves sing and a relaxed, conversational tone added to the appeal. “When we sing the same words at the same time and our voices blend into one, we express and experience the unity of the body of Christ,” says Ben.
In a post on Avondale Alumni’s Facebook group after the weekend, Alumnus of the Year Oliver thanked the university for “giving us the opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues that in some cases we had not seen in a very long time. . . . The joy of spending time eating, talking, laughing and remembering together was just great.” The event, he writes, “remains very relevant and much appreciated.”
Homecoming 2024 is August 23-24. Register to receive all the information you need to connect with your 1954, 1964, 1974, 1984, 1994, 2004 and 2014 classmates.REGISTER